Our best albums of the year lists wrapped up this past Friday (December 11); now, we're getting to the albums that didn't get their due this year. Some of the albums below are debuts by artists who may break bigger with their next release, while others are the latest efforts by veterans that didn't get the reaction we thought they would.
All of them — including ones that ended up on Best of 2015 lists — were records we felt needed an extra bump. Read about the albums you might have missed or underestimated this year below, in alphabetical order.
To find more of Exclaim!'s year-end writing, head to our 2015 in Lists section.
Top 10 Underrated Records:
Car Seat Headrest
Teens of Style
Plucked from the annals of Bandcamp, this debut studio effort features some of the best tracks from Will Toledo's first 11 albums re-recorded with a full band. Combining jangly guitar hooks, distorted vocals and lyrics that could easily double as a suburban youth's Tumblr posts, Teens of Style successfully translates Toledo's lo-fi works into bona fide power-pop gems without forgetting their roots.
After the success of Empress Of's instrumental YouTube "color minutes," singer/producer Lorely Rodriguez released her more personal, powerfully honest debut album, Me, in 2015, addressing issues of sexism, class privilege and self-love across 10 snappy, dance floor-ready songs that deserved more thorough listening this year.
Inspired by the passing of his Indian grandmother and crafted (in part) out of a sample selected from one of the many records Kieran Hebden (a.k.a. Four Tet) inherited from her, Morning/Evening may not be an immediate favourite for those who favour his jazzier side, but it's his most deeply meaningful and beatific effort yet.
Straddling the line between modern and traditional, French-Cuban twins Ibeyi humbly blend Yoruba chants, Peruvian cajón, exquisite vocals and electronic blasts to create a sound absolutely their own. Between Naomi's boom-clap-snap beat making and Lisa-Kaindé's haunting lead vocals, the Díaz sisters created a simple yet strikingly beautiful album that captivated those lucky enough to hear it.
Into Her Future
Smokey-voiced Crash Vegas singer Michelle McAdorey returned after a 12-year hiatus with a kick-ass psychedelic and poppy folk-rock album (inspired in part by British Isles folk) recorded painstakingly with Greg Keelor at his Lost Cause studio near Peterborough, ON. Her voice is as strong as ever, and these are tunes for our times.
The Good Fight
(Mello Music Group)
MC/producer Oddisee wears both hats well (and tries on a third: singing) on The Good Fight. Lyrically, "That's Love" digs into all incarnations of art's grandest topic, while "Contradiction's Maze" considers the conflicting duality of American culture. Yes, grown-man rap records can say something and still sound fantastic.
Of Feather and Bone
Embrace the Wretched Flesh
Of Feather and Bone's Embrace the Wretched Flesh is a collision of aggressive music's two main umbrellas: metal and hardcore punk. This Denver trio haven't fully reaped the rewards of metalcore's recent resurgence, perhaps because they chose darker strains of metal (black, death) and filthier shades of hardcore (crust, grind). This one's for the fearless.
The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam
His work on To Pimp a Butterfly garnered the lion's share of attention, but this "mini-album" was Thundercat's bolder and more personal statement. Picking up on the themes of 2013's Apocalypse — death and mortality — there's a solemn sense of searching woven into the groove-laden world of these six tracks, punctuated by adventurous bass lines.
Veruca Salt could have been excused for sounding tentative on the original lineup's first full-length in 18 years; instead, Ghost Notes is a bracing blend of gigantic riffs, angelic harmonies and deeply affecting lyrics that stands as the group's finest hour and one of 2015's most underrated.
Kamasi Washington's The Epic is perfectly named. The saxophonist gained notice via Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly; on his own, he released a three-volume, 17-track exercise in genre mastery. Supported by a 20-person choir and 32-piece orchestra, this uncompromising jazz record is all sound and fury, a deeply satisfying work in which to lose yourself.
Ryan B. Patrick